It’s part of life, so, here’s a funeral home survival guide

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First Posted: 1/26/2015

I realize I’ve been writing a lot about death lately…but death; its life. We recently had another passing within the family and it threw us all for the proverbial loop. It’s hard and there’s no way to make it easier, except if you’re me – then you get through it all by poking fun and deciphering the actions of others. And what better place to put this into practice than a wake?

My friend Anne and I attended several wakes within the last year. At one wake, we waited in a very long line in very, very cold weather. My nose ran like it had batteries. If I was alone, I could’ve swiped it on my sleeve but there were too many witnesses. I asked a nice elderly lady in front of me for a tissue. She plunged her gloved hand down the front of her lamb’s wool to extract a used tissue, smeared with carnation lipstick. I grimaced, “Uhhh…thanks Nana…” She looked at me incredulously; “How did you know my name was Nana?” I whispered: “Anyone of a certain age who offers a used Kleenex is called Nana…”

As the hour wore on, my breath started to stink. I needed a mint and worked the line until I procured a TicTac. Additionally, I craved a pair of gloves, Depends, a spiked ginger ale and a crossword puzzle. We decided we needed to patent and produce a useful little item we will call “The Funeral Fanny Pack.” It would contain everything I just mentioned in addition to ChapStick, feminine products and a Snickers bar.


This week, while attending a lengthy wake without sitting down, I had an opportunity to ponder the intricacies of mourning and constructed a Wake Survival Guide:

1. Pack a lunch.

2. Dress warmly, and wear long underwear, if you can fit it under your inappropriately tight mourning attire. It’s cold out and you will sob with hypothermia.

3. Only converse with other line dwellers who appear friendly. You don’t want to be stuck in an achingly slow procession with someone who whines about her ex-husband, and the fact that she’s unable to meet anyone on who knows more about a woman’s needs than a bovine’s.

4. Keep your phone turned off but check often to see if Kim has fallen off the wagon again on “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” Other’s misfortunes are an excellent distraction from your sadness.

5. Wear appropriate shoes. Someone’s brother, who has threatened his sister with her own death and dismemberment should she mention this in her column, fell flat on his bony butt as he glided along an icy sidewalk. He entered the wake limping and, while I’m certain he was sad at the death, I believe his tears were more from the pain and humiliation of his little spill. Comic. Relief.

6. Pack a dinner.

7. When greeting the family of the deceased, make sure you have a wad of Juicy Fruit in your mouth. Please avoid anchovy paste and garlic on your pizza, pre-wake. I beg of you.

8. Finally – try not to grab body parts as you wander along the perforated line of family members. I realize wakes are awkward and uncomfortable events, but bereavement groping is a funeral home don’t.

9. Pack a tranquilizer.

And for God’s sake, don’t ask Nana for a Kleenex.